5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/11/15)

  • The situation in the Sudan is still really terrible and children are being raped.  Despite the splintering of the country into two pieces, things are still horrific as stated in a new report by Human Rights Watch:

Sudanese army troops raped at least 221 women and girls in a Darfur village in a series of organized, house-to-house attacks last year…the new report, based on more than 130 telephone interviews with survivors, witnesses and army defectors, says girls as young as 10 were raped by Sudanese forces, and that some women and girls were assaulted multiple times and in front of their families.

  • “We are punishing people for their poverty.”  Part of the cycle of poverty in the U.S. has to do with the fact the poor are put in jail and can’t pay the fines they accrue so they sit in jail longer which means they cannot go to work or take care of their children.  And these are not because they are committing violent crimes, as noted:

Although violent crime has declined almost 50 percent in the past two decades, annual admissions to jails have almost doubled to 11.7 million…75 percent of the population of people in jail are awaiting trail and are there for nonviolent offenses.

  • Yemen continues to provide proof the U.S. can’t kill its way to victory in the War on Terror.  The U.S. and other Western allies will be shredding their documents and leaving their embassies in Yemen this week.  It’s been noted heavily since the coup (or allegedly not-a-coup, as pointed out in the article) that Yemen was held up as a “model” for how to conduct the War on Terror through a persistent and heavy amount of drone strikes.  That worked out well…
  • A U.S. drone burned a 13-year old Yemeni boy to death.  Just another incident in that “model” country that goes unnoticed by most Americans.  But hey, according to sadistic U.S. law, he was “military age” and a male so he’s an enemy combatant and not just a child.  Some of his family won’t have to mourn his death since his father and brother were already killed by drones.  I’m sure an attack like that will offend absolutely no one that will want to seek revenge against the West sometime in the future.  Because that’s how an-eye-for-not-an-eye works.
  • Wisconsin Governor and potential Republican 2016 candidate Scott Walker dodges a question on whether he believes in evolution.  Which is fantastic if you are cheering for the Democrats to hold the White House in the next election.  The hilarious aspect of questions like this and the recent spat on vaccinations is there are clear majorities of Americans that are on one side of these issues and these potential presidential candidates are sometimes choosing the side of the minority.  They aren’t issues that will win you too many voters but they are issues that will turn voters off when you take seemingly crazy positions.  So, for Walker to dodge the question and make himself look a little wacky when there’s an obviously easier path, I say go right ahead buddy!

Social Protest Lit: George Bernard Shaw, Preface to “Major Barbara”

indexThe preface to “Major Barbara” from George Bernard Shaw from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

The thoughtless wickedness with which we scatter sentences of imprisonment, torture in the solitary cell and on the plank bed, and flogging, and moral invalids and energetic rebels, is as nothing compared to the stupid levity with which we tolerate poverty as a if it were either a wholesome tonic for lazy people or less a virtue to be embraced as St. Francis embraced it. If a man is indolent, let him be poor. If he is drunken, let him be poor. If he is not a gentleman, let him be poor. If he is addicted to the fine arts or to pure science instead of trade and finance, let him be poor. If he chooses to spend his urban eighteen shillings a week or his agricultural thirteen shillings a week on his beer and his family instead of saving it up for his old age, let him be poor. Serves him right! Also-somewhat inconsistently-blessed are the poor!

Now what does this Let Him Be Poor mean? It means let him be weak. Let him be ignorant. Let him be a nucleus of disease. Let him be a standing exhibition and example of ugliness and dirt. Let him have rickety children. Let him be cheap and let him drag his fellows down to his price by selling himself to do their work. Let his habitations turn our cities into poisonous congeries of slums. Let his daughters infect our young men with the diseases of the streets and his sons revenge him by turning the nation’s manhood into scrofula, cowardice, cruelty, hypocrisy, political imbecility, and all the other fruits of oppression and malnutrition. Let the undeserving become still less deserving; and let the deserving lay up for himself, not treasures in heaven, but horrors in hell upon earth. This being so, is it really wise to let him be poor? Would he not do ten time less harm as a prosperous burglar, incendiary, ravisher, or murderer, to the utmost limits of humanity’s comparatively negligible impulses in these directions? Suppose we were to abolish all penalties for such activities, and decide that poverty is the one thing we will not tolerate-that every adult with less than, say, 365 pounds a year, shall be painlessly but inexorably killed, and every hungry half naked child forcibly fattened and clothed, would not that be and enormous improvement on our existing system, which has already destroyed so many civilizations, and is visibly destroying ours in the same way?

 

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Countering the Right: Insidious Koch Brothers Attack on Detroit Bankruptcy Settlement

A prime example of the absurd economic inequality in the U.S. has reared its ugly head as the Koch brothers apparently got bored and have decided to throw money at the Detroit bankruptcy settlement in an effort to deceive the 99%.

Their first tactic of deception is to attack the “bailout”.  Just one issue with that: it’s not a bailout.  As noted by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the article:

This is a settlement. This not a bailout,” Snyder said. “And I want to be very, very clear about that.” (Emphasis added)

The easy way to confirm that statement as true would be to simply realize it was an officially filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy and not a legislative decision to provide stimulus-type money to the city.

But that isn’t the really despicable attack by the Koch brothers group.  Take a look at their page at http://www.strongerdetroit.com/ (disgracefully named, as usual).  You’ll see this nugget of info:

Per capita state revenue sharing payments are over 3x what other cities receive.  In 2010, Detroit received $335 per capita in revenue sharing payments compared to $96, the average amount per capita all other cities over 50,000 in Michigan received.

Clearly, those greedy people in Detroit just upped their piece of the Michigan pie in the years leading up to this bankruptcy until they were all happy, fat cats.

Except they didn’t:

Between 2000 and 2010, inflation adjusted state revenues per capita declined by 13.7 percent in Detroit, while in Buffalo they increased by 45 percent.  In the recession period alone (2007 to 2010), state aid to Detroit went down by 8.2 percent, but went up by 7.2 percent in Buffalo.  Thus a big difference between these two structurally similar cities is the economic and fiscal environment and fiscal choices made at the state level.  Had New York treated Buffalo in the same way fiscally as Michigan dealt with Detroit, Buffalo, which is already teetering on the edge of fiscal crisis, might have been forced to declare bankruptcy as well. (Emphasis added)

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The per capita spending is still three times higher and some might be angry by this.  Unless they realized why.

Detroit’s poverty rate is a whopping 38.1%, according to the Census Bureau, more than double the Michigan state rate of 16.3%.  Add on the fact that Detroit is Michigan’s largest city by a lot (more than three times the size of second place) and the picture starts to come together.  But just to drive the point home, let’s give an example to further explain the disparity.

Suppose you have two cities in a state and both have a population of ten people.  City A has one person (10%) living below the poverty line.  City B has three people (30%) living below the poverty line.  If the state spends $100 per person in various ways on people below the poverty line (education, unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc.), then City B would be receiving three times more ($300) from the state than City A ($100).

The reason for Michigan’s spending on Detroit is not very difficult to figure out.

The reason the people of Michigan might fall for the Koch brothers heinous attack on the city’s bankruptcy settlement is also easy to figure out: brainwashing.

Are The Poor Better Off?

POOR-master675Another great article in the NYT that was written by Annie Lowrey explains that though many poor families have more material wealth in terms of TV’s, smartphones, and an Internet connection compared to past times, they are becoming worse off in terms of economic inequality.

She explains that the reason for this “material abundance” for the lower SES population is due to the falling prices of goods as a result of global economics. But when it comes to expenses critical to moving out of poverty such as education costs, healthcare, and minimum wage jobs, their outlook is bleak.

Read Here.

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Human Rights Before Animal Rights

b497a83b-32d2-42ac-b538-8b157f9dee52-460x276An op-ed in The Guardian by Sadhbh Walshe brings up a point I’ve been thinking about lately, namely, why does it seem violations against animal rights are becoming more more important than abuses of human rights.

Read Here. 

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The Working Poor and Raising Minimum Wage

Blow_New-thumbLarge-v2A powerful argument by Charles M. Blow in the NYT on why the minimum wage should be increased with the rising numbers of the working poor in the “Land of Opportunity.”

He argues that it is about dignity and not being in a state of constant worry over paying one’s bills. He also makes the good argument that the working poor cannot afford to donate to political campaigns and can only reach the voting boot on election day with great effort.

Read Here.

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Ryan Takes On Poverty

PaulRyanAP-500x333An interesting article in the Washington Post on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (former VP candidate under Mitt Romney) efforts to focus on helping impoverished Americans.

Though I do not agree with much of Ryan’s proposed policies (as few as there are), it’s a fascinating look at what the party of the rich propose to help end poverty in America.

Read Here. 

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Raising The Minimum Wage: Job Killer or Fair Pay?

SOTU_bugA good piece in The Atlantic on whether if the minimum wage was increased to $9.00 an hour, as Pres. Obama has proposed, will it kill jobs or provide some relief to the those on the lowest rung of the latter? They pose this question to 5 respected professors and they each comeback with interesting findings.

Read Here.